Tuesday November 19, 2019

E-cigarettes Damage Brain Stem Cells: Researchers

Nicotine exposure during prenatal or adolescent development can affect the brain in multiple ways that may impair memory, learning and cognition

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e-cigarette, vaping
In this April 11, 2018, photo, an unidentified 15-year-old high school student uses a vaping device near the school's campus in Cambridge, Mass. Health and education officials across the country are raising alarms over wide underage use of e-cigarettes and other vaping products. The devices heat liquid into an inhalable vapor that's sold in sugary flavors like mango and mint — and often with the addictive drug nicotine. VOA

In the most damning study so far, a US research team has found that e-cigarettes, often targeted at youth and pregnant women, damage brain stem cells.

Even short-term exposure of e-cigarettes (ECs) produces a stress response in neural stem cells, which are critical cells in the brain, said the researchers from University of California, Riverside.

“Although originally introduced as safer, ECs, such as Vuse and JUUL, are not harmless,” said Atena Zahedi, first author of the research paper that appeared in iScience, an open-access journal from Cell Press.

“Even short-term exposure can stress cells in a manner that may lead, with chronic use, to cell death or disease. Our observations are likely to pertain to any product containing nicotine,” Zahedi claimed.

Present throughout life, stem cells become specialised cells with more specific functions, such as brain cells, blood cells or bone.

Using cultured mouse neural stem cells, the UC Riverside researchers identified the mechanism underlying EC-induced stem cell toxicity as “stress-induced mitochondrial hyperfusion” or SIMH.

“SIMH is a protective, survival response. Our data shows that exposure of stem cells to e-liquids, aerosols, or nicotine produces a response that leads to SIMH,” said Prue Talbot, Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cell and Systems Biology, who led the research.

Electronic cigarettes are nicotine-delivery devices that aerosolized nicotine and flavour chemicals through heating.

“The high levels of nicotine in ECs lead to a nicotine flooding of special receptors in the neural stem cell membrane,” Zahedi said.

E-cigarettes, Smokers
A woman smokes an electronic cigarette in London, Aug. 19, 2015. VOA

Nicotine binds to these receptors, causing them to open up. Calcium and other ions begin to enter the cell. Eventually, a calcium overload follows.

Zahedi explained that too much calcium in the mitochondria is harmful. The mitochondria then swell, changing their morphology and function.

They can even rupture and leak molecules that lead to cell death.

“If the nicotine stress persists, SIMH collapses, the neural stem cells get damaged and could eventually die,” Zahedi noted.

If that happens, no more specialised cells — such as astrocytes and neurons — can be produced from stem cells.

Also Read: Researchers Find Way to Make Cancer Cells Self-destruct

Damaged stem cell mitochondria could accelerate ageing and lead to neurodegenerative diseases.

The researchers stressed that youth and pregnant women need to pay especially close attention to their results.

Nicotine exposure during prenatal or adolescent development can affect the brain in multiple ways that may impair memory, learning and cognition. (IANS)

Next Story

WHO Demands Strict Regulations on Vaping Products

WHO says there should be a ban on the promotion of electronic nicotine delivery systems to nonsmokers, pregnant women and youth

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WHO
The World Health Organization also known as WHO says it is disturbed that vaping devices continue to be marketed as products that are healthy and that can wean smokers off their nicotine addiction. Wikimedia Commons

The World Health Organization also called WHO is calling for stricter regulations on the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes as more information comes to light about the potentially harmful impact of these products.

Health officials are increasingly worried about the risks posed by e-cigarettes as reported cases of deaths and illnesses from these devices spread from the United States to Europe and beyond. They see the recent death of a young man in Belgium and reports of vaping-related illnesses in the Philippines and other countries in the world as a call to action.

The World Health Organization says it is disturbed that vaping devices continue to be marketed as products that are healthy and that can wean smokers off their nicotine addiction.  WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier tells VOA these industry health claims are unproven.

“While these electronic nicotine delivery systems may be less toxic than conventional cigarettes, this does not make them harmless,” he said.  “They produce aerosols from the vapor that contain toxicants that can result in a range of significant pathological changes.  These ends pose health risks for nonsmokers, to minors, to pregnant women — all of those who should not use such systems.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed at least 42 deaths in 24 states and the District of Columbia, and more than 2,100 illnesses related to vaping products.

WHO
The World Health Organization also called WHO is calling for stricter regulations on the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes as more information comes to light about the potentially harmful impact of these products. Pixabay

Vaping is an extremely profitable growth industry.  The number of people using vaping devices has increased from 7 million in 2011 to 41 million in 2018.  Profits have nearly tripled, from $6.9 billion five years ago to more than $19 billion today.  Getting the tobacco industry to refrain from the sale of electronic smoking devices will be extremely difficult.

The World Health Organization says long-term studies of health implications of electronic nicotine devices should begin.  In the meantime, the U.N. health agency is issuing recommendations that in some ways mirror those enacted to control tobacco use.

ALSO READ: Smart Bulbs Can Steal Personal Information Through Hacking

WHO says there should be a ban on the promotion of electronic nicotine delivery systems to nonsmokers, pregnant women and youth; measures should be taken to minimize the potential risks to users and others from these devices, and the tobacco industry should be prohibited from using unproven health claims to market vaping products.  (VOA)